The 2013 Bike of the Year is a $10,000 bike. Surprised? I hope a bike at that price wins something. If the automotive media used that same logic, the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta at $315,000 should be car of the year, not a VW Passat. I don’t get it. Where is the mountain bike industry going? What is its future? What are they pushing this year? How do they intend to get more people to get into the sport when it costs upwards the price of a Nissan Versa or one semester of college just to hit the trail? And what’s driving this train? Time to evaluate.
It dawned on me today as I was riding my 26” 6-year old bike that I bought when I was just freshly married with only one kid, why some people think we’re “crazy” for buying bikes that are so expensive. Because we are crazy. Addict crazy. Jack Nicholson Shining crazy: “Heeeeeerrre’s money!!!” Sure, I had just finished being single (8 years ago) and had a good bank account and plopping $5k down every other year wasn’t the issue, I was an addict. I had a problem. I bought what they were selling. I kept asking my married buddies, “Why don’t you just buy…” then it hit me (after #2 arrived) why they rode it till it broke: shit’s expensive. And it’s not getting any cheaper. Look around, then ask yourself, “Why”? I saw a comment someone posted on a website article once that reflects this writing, “Why does a mountain bike cost as much as a YZ450f?” Very good point. Why?? I’m sure the YZ has updated technology and the alloy frames are not cheaper than the steel versions they used to build, and a 4-stroke has to be more complex than the old 2-stroke. But a 2014 Honda CRF450R sells for $6,300, and I bet you could name a dozen ALLOY bikes that cost as much. The aforementioned Nissan Versa retails for $11,990 with the Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 selling for $9,250. We laugh and kid when a rider has a bike that costs more than his car, but he wasn’t driving a Lexus. So what drives us to buy the best bling or the newest product? The need or the marketing? TV’s used to be $5000, the same TV today is $850. So what gives?
I have to stop my 17 year-old all the time to stop buying into what they’re selling you, and think about what’s right for him. As most teens today, they start at the top, the best, bling!, because they are sold on the marketing. Headphones. Tablets. Shoes. Phones. Computers. Cars. The list goes on. We know as parents that there are cheaper alternatives and those will do just fine. Like Rodney Copperbottom says, see a need, fill a need (I’ve seen too many kid’s movies). Sometimes we upgrade their purchase but regret it because it didn’t do anything but collect dust. Sometimes it actually worked out because it got plenty of use (like a good pair of shoes for an active athlete or a computer for a graphic artist). But you know what they sell us through marketing? The BEST. Not the entry level but the shiny premium one with a satellite antenna. So we go into the store and struggle with the downsell or overbuy because we bought into that it will make me better. I sold cars for a while, and it was tough to sell a car that is priced right for a person rather than getting them buried (or declined) when they wanted the Platinum-Turbo-Leather-Shift-on-the-Fly- Holley-Dual-Quad-Hurst-Shifter-Walnut-Grain F150. Finding the product that is right for you is tougher than it should be when it changes as often as your underwear, or when the marketing is pushing on you this year’s color. That persimmon frame was so “in”.
Just think about it. What happens? This is how I see it: Scene 1, Act 1: Bob and Jay are kickin’ it in the garage over the newest IPA.
Bob: I’m ditching that big ring. Getting a bash ring or a guide! 2-ring set-ups are the rage! Besides, I just got this new 10 speed derailleur and cassette.
Jay: You had to buy a new frame because your old frame didn’t have that ISCG-05 mount, right? How much did you spend?
Bob: I was told this new extruded-hydroformed-magnetized-homogenized-plutoniumized alloy frame was the way to go. $2,500 for the kit! UPS should be here any minute.
Jay: Cool. Your components will swap right over.
Bob: Sort of. I had to get a new headset. It comes with this sweet tapered headtube. They said it lasts longer with less wear. I’m not sure if I noticed anything before. Damn it if I just bought that 1 1/8” Chris King.
Jay: What size do you need? 44? 52? Integrated? What’s the standard now??
Bob: I dunno. I just got this new fork 6 months ago. Cost me a grand! They said the standard QR was weak, so I went out and got a 36mm fork with a 20mm axle. Totally re-designed internals they say!
Jay: Dude, 15mm axles are so much better! Lighter and just as strong! A 36 is heavy, you should have gotten a 34, plus, they re-engineered the internals for 2014.
Bob: UGH!! (drinks)
Jay: Don’t worry. My new carbonized all-mountain 29” squish frame has this bottom bracket that won’t accept the carbon cranks I just bought over the summer to save 35g. Some “press fit” thing they say is stronger because of the bigger bearing.
Bob: Wasn’t that road stuff? It’s called something like BB30, BB90/95, PF86/92, PF30??
Jay: Yep. Now I hear they are going back to threaded because of the noise. UGH!! (drinks)
Bob: Oh, did I mention I need a new seatpost? That 27.2 is too small. I’m not sure what I need. I’ve got a slightly used dropper for sale now.
Jay: No, I have 31.6. But you’ll get $50 for it somewhere. I think you have 30.9.
Bob: I know. But at least I have my Mavic Crossmax UST 26” wheels. That will save me money.
Jay: UST? Dude, so yesterday! Now there is Tubeless Ready tires and rims. You can use almost any tire! Did you see the 650b?
(***UPS pulls up***)
Bob: My new frame!
(Opens box, checks out new ride)
Jay: What’s up with the rear end?
Bob: What is that?
Jay: It’s a through-axle dude.
Jay: Oh, did I mention 1 x 11?
As soon as you buy it, they change it. I’m not sure the general consumer has noticed the need for tapered head tubes, larger bottom brackets or a through-axle rear wheel. Bikes have become so stiff that anywhere else there is so-called “flex” it must be made out of carbon or magnesium or Kryptonite to make up the difference. But there were two inventions that were by far the best ideas that FILL the need of the average rider: Dropper posts and disc brakes. One saves you from injury to the baby making region and the other stops you consistently, safely and also while in the rain. These probably haven’t made you a better rider, but they have made the ride better. Speaking of…what has made you a better rider? If you say 29”, cool. But that’s a choice of wheel size rather than clever marketing. Carbon bars didn’t make you a better rider, wider maybe, but not the carbon. Neither did the carbon cranks, or the rigidity of carbon wheels, or a rear through-axle. I begin to wonder where road bike technology will stop boiling over to the mountain or did mountain bike manufacturers give up on development and decide to look at road bikes for inspiration? The current road bike is an offspring of bikes developed for The Grand Tours. Teams went to carbon frames for rigidity for sprints, lightness for climbs, and comfort over alloy. They also went to carbon wheels due to the power transfer from the rigid frame were now being felt at the rickety alloy wheel. This is also where the larger bottom bracket region came into play (prior to BB30-types). The power sprinters put down is by far more than anything we as mountain bikers will force upon our cranksets (besides a 10 foot drop). The tapered head tube was developed to withstand braking forces at the lower head tube while stopping from 60mph and vibrations over cobblestone roads like Paris Roubaix (please don’t sue me Specialized!). There is no suspension fork or low pressure tire to compensate for all of this – all vibration and force goes right to the head tube. So how does this technology truly apply to mountain bikes? Probably for the XC racing hardtail or short travel rig. Probably.
I can imagine a time when you were on the trail and said, “Damn, I hate always stopping to adjust my seatpost” and POOF!, a smart product arose by two guys and a small company not pushing their product. We adopted it. WE chose it. And now a dropper post is vital part of a bike. But what else did you, as a non-professional, really wished to change? Most would say the weight of the bike. Super light durable wheels the price of two mortgages to save 300g? $2400 vs $750 rounds out to about 4 bucks a gram. Would you spend $4 on a gram of anything? Besides THAT! I’ll spend the $80 and have my hub re-laced with a new rim. And who says what’s light? I think your bike is light, you say heavy. You say his is heavy, but he’s faster. This reads like a Dr. Seuss book: “Carbon this, carbon that, carbon is where it’s at. 30 gears, 20 gears, 10 gears, now 11. Numbers go down, and price goes to heaven”. And what about that front derailleur? Is it THAT bad? Dropped chain? Ahh, about as common as a flat, but they have yet to solve that problem (Stans dries out, so don’t even!…) The rear, not so much. Chains jump up over the top gear, chain suck, slamming the derailleur then a bunch of misshifts during a ride, or any breakage (cable or unit) and the ride is done. Kerplut! But we’re addicts, we need 1 x 11, because every print, media, and outlet says it’s the best. But at what cost? $1200 for 11 speed, or $420 for 30, (and you don’t need a new wheel. XX1 requires new freehub body). Explain that to your kid: Pay more for less. Great marketing! So look at all the other “standards” the industry pushed on us to buy over the past 5 years, they are now passé. The cost to upgrade has now skyrocketed beyond most people’s means, and we seem to be bucking the trend. I’ve been reading the blogs, and it seems that although we LOVE the new bling and 2013 Bike of the Year, we just can’t afford them.
What’s driving this train is marketing and the need to fill the newest “gizmo” and to tell us “you need this”. What’s not driving it is fun. Fun should be at the market forefront, and ride whatever it is you ride, we’ll improve what you’re using. But they are not. They’re telling you that 9 speed is dead (hell, 10 speed is now dead!), 26” is dead, alloy is dead. So you feel dead, and lack fun, so to have fun, I need the newest. To keep the industry going with current riders and to bring in newer riders, it should re-evaluate itself. The technology needs to trickle down faster and at an affordable range that is truly reasonable, not in the range of a CRF450 or Versa, and without all these new “standards” that will change next year. Give us something we can upgrade easily. But this also means looking at what’s being marketed, who’s pushing it, and why? This is a big purchase for many of us. I surely want a new 27.5 bike with some good components and DW Link squish, but at $5,500 that’s just beyond my family of 4 budget. And by the time I get $5,500, that bike is now $6,500 and outdated. Buying a budget bike isn’t for me: 25+ years of aggressive riding gives me the right to spend more for a pair of shoes because I’m a runner. But I can’t when a Mojo HDR 650 (XX1) cost the same as my neighbor’s CRF450. If you can afford the pricey products on a monthly basis I’m happy for you, but is the product still right for you or are they just selling you the Platinum Turbo Leather-Shift-on-the-Fly-Holley-Dual-Quad-Hurst-Shifter-Walnut-Grain F150?
-The Moderately Upset Multi-Biker
The opinions and views expressed in this article by the Moderately Upset Multi-Biker are not the opinions of the Southern Nevada Mountain Bike Association.